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BGCL Alumna Honored with A.C.E. Award from Exchange Club of Lawrence

September 07, 2017

While growing up in Lawrence, Bryanna Matias said she grew weary of the frequent criticism over the city's issues with drugs and violence, without any mention of its strengths.

"I was put onto a path of fear and failure, without even having a chance," she said. "Nonetheless, the city taught me that being strong is to push through the worst and strive to be the best."

Matias was recently honored as a local winner of the A.C.E. (Accepting the Challenge of Excellence) Award from the Exchange Club of Lawrence for her outstanding attitude and performance, while overcoming adversity to earn a high school diploma. The recognition comes with a $1,000 college scholarship.

Matias said she "chose to live a productive life and surrounded myself with positivity and love," despite the stress of her father's imprisonment, coupled with a four-year separation from her mother after their eviction forced them to move in with different family members. Matias, who now lives with her mother in Haverhill, credits the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence with providing her with a nurturing second home, as well as easing the food insecurity she experienced due to her family's financial struggles through its nightly supper program.

Matias, who graduated this past May from Central Catholic High School, was also involved with the Merrimack Valley YMCA, Groundwork Lawrence, and the Lawrence Youth Council. She took global health courses as a Summer Scholars student at the University of Notre Dame, and just began her freshman year at UMass Amherst with the goal of becoming a pediatric surgeon.

"All the obstacles and influences that surrounded me in my upbringing helped me mature mentally and emotionally," Matias said. "I cannot wait to continue this journey."

"Our kids overcome odds and experiences that would mentally cripple most of us," said Steve Kelley, associate director of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence. "This special recognition from the Exchange Club is a powerful example to all that hard work and perseverance really do pay off."

 

Did You Know?

There are currently over 150 members of the 1891 Club, the most prestigious donor society at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence.